Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mediates Between Assyrians & Kurds in Qamishli
By Bar Daisan (AINA NEWS) 2016-01-18 07:04 GMT – In the early hours of Tuesday, January 12th, members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) conducted a large attack on Assyrian checkpoints, using more than 30 vehicles and hundreds of heavily armed Kurdish fighters against the Assyrian Gozarto Protection Forces (GPF) in the Assyrian neighborhood of Al-Wusta in Qamishli. The fighting lasted for at least three hours and ended after the Kurds called upon a Syrian government representative to mediate a cease-fire.
Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II meets with family members of the victims of the restaurant bombings in Qamishli.Qamishli, Syria (AINA) — Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem II, the supreme head of the Syriac-Orthodox Church, arrived in Qamishli on January 15 to mediate between Assyrians and Kurds, who clashed on January 15, resulting in the killing of one Assyrian fighter and 3 Kurdish fighters (AINA 2016-01-12). The Patriarch met with all relevant groups and initiated a meeting between the Assyrian groups and the Kurds to diffuse the tense situation.In the early hours of Tuesday, January 12th, members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) conducted a large attack on Assyrian checkpoints, using more than 30 vehicles and hundreds of heavily armed Kurdish fighters against the Assyrian Gozarto Protection Forces (GPF) in the Assyrian neighborhood of Al-Wusta in Qamishli. The fighting lasted for at least three hours and ended after the Kurds called upon a Syrian government representative to mediate a cease-fire.
The onslaught by Kurdish YPG fighters came after a demand by the YPG to cede control of Al-Wusta to them was refused by GPF. Al-Wusta is located in the center of the city and has no Kurdish or Arab residents. The attack also came in a time of increased tensions in Qamishli, less than two weeks after bomb attacks on three Assyrian restaurants, which killed more than 18 people, 14 of them Assyrians (AINA 2015-12-30). Assyrian security forces tightened security around Al-Wusta after the bombings.
Upon arriving in Qamishli Patriarch Ephrem held a remembrance service for the victims of the restaurant bombings and other Christians killed in the city, met with all relevant groups to assess the situation and met with the families of the deceased to offer his condolences. The patriarch received Mr. Mohammad Zaal Al-Ali, the Governor of Hasaka, at the Archdiocese headquarters in Qamishli.
On Saturday, January 16th, Assyrian and Armenian religious and civic representatives met with Kurdish and Arab representatives and issued a list of demands concerning the security of Christians in north-eastern Syria, in the province of Hasaka.
In an interview with AssyriaTV, Ahikar Rashid, a representative of GPF who was at the meeting, said all Christian organizations had met a day earlier to formulate their concerns and demands for a sustainable peace in the province in the face of the threat from ISIS. A key demand is that Christians must independently protect themselves without control by any other political or military groups.
The population of the province of Hasaka is nearly equally divided between Assyrians, Arabs and Kurds. The city of Qamishli was almost entirely Assyrian until the early 1980s and was established by Assyrian survivors of the genocide of 1915 perpetrated by Ottoman Turks against the Christian populations of Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians. At that time many Kurdish clans acted as the henchman of the Ottoman government. It is natural that the recent developments in Qamishli recall those memories of Christians, who do not trust Kurdish expansionism and self-declared autonomy and control over the region.
YPG’s latest attacks on Assyrians came after their earlier attacks on Turkmen, Arabs and other Kurdish groups not willing to collaborate with them. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both recently documented massive human rights violations by the YPG, a Syrian PKK offshoot, including forced evictions and the destruction of homes and property of non-Kurdish populations in regions under its control (AINA 2015-11-10).